US & Canada

California wildfire: 80,000 evacuated east of Los Angeles

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Media captionThe Blue Cut fire spread at speed in the canyons around San Bernardino

A rapidly moving wildfire has forced the evacuation of some 82,000 people in San Bernardino County, just east of Los Angeles, officials say.

The blaze broke out on Tuesday in a mountain pass and has already engulfed about 15,000 acres (6,070 ha) of land.

Tens of thousands of homes are at risk from the so-called Bluecut fire. A state of emergency has been declared.

Another fire, the Clayton, which broke out on Saturday in northern California, has destroyed 175 homes.

'Raining ash'

The Bluecut fire spread with great speed in the parched canyons around San Bernardino. At least a dozen buildings have already been engulfed.

US Forest Service spokeswoman Lyn Sieliet said: "It is a very fast-moving fire, it has wind behind it."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption More than 80,000 people have been evacuated
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Bluecut fire engulfs a chicken coop in San Bernardino
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Bluecut is heading into the Mojave Desert
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Smoke fills the sky over Interstate 15, part of which was closed
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Bluecut has already charred some 15,000 acres

California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in San Bernardino County to bring in federal assistance.

The blaze forced the closure of a stretch of Interstate 15, the main road between Las Vegas and Los Angeles area.

Some 700 firefighters are battling to control the blaze in the Cajon Pass. Its cause remains unknown.

The fire is now heading into the Mojave Desert.

The main communities forced to evacuate were the ski resort of Wrightwood and the desert town of Phelan.

A rancher in Phelan, Shannon Anderson, told Associated Press news agency: "It's raining ash."

Further north, the Clayton Fire in Lake County was now 35% contained, California's department of forestry and fire protection said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Damin Pashilk - shown here in his police booking photo - is suspected of deliberately starting the Clayton fire

The authorities announced on Tuesday that Damin Pashilk, 40, was facing 17 counts of arson and was suspected of involvement in numerous other fires in the Lake County area over the past year. He will appear in court on Wednesday.

A third fire, the Chimney, has affected 6,900 acres since Saturday and has destroyed about 40 buildings in central California.

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